8 Tips For Non-Manipulative Classroom Praise

“Praise, like penicillin, must not be administered haphazardly. There are rules and cautions that govern the handling of potent medicines— rules about timing and dosage, cautions about possible allergic reactions.” (Haim Ginott, 1965, p. 39)

Praise Research 

Praise researchers have set up various camps for decades. Some maintain that praise encourages student behavior and motivation, advising teachers to “reward the student with verbal reinforcement when she or he exhibits desired behavior” (Dev, 1997, p 16). 

Others believe that it can damage motivation–and in some cases, even become downright manipulative. Alfie Kohn contends that praise “leads [students] to measure their worth in terms of what will lead us to smile and dole out some more approval” (5 Reasons to Stop Saying Good Job).  They argue that “Praise can create excessive pressure to continue performing well, discourage risk taking, and reduce perceived autonomy.” (Henderlong, J. & Lepper, M.R. “The Effects of Praise on Children’s Intrinsic Motivation: A Review and Synthesis,” p. 776).

Despite these opposing camps, still other researchers examine specific variables of praise that can impact students’ intrinsic motivation both beneficially and detrimentally. In their comprehensive praise review, Henderlong and Lepper conclude, “rather than asking whether praise enhances intrinsic motivation, it is far more useful to ask about the conditions under which this is likely to occur” (The Effects of Praise, p. 791). Some of those conditions include:

  • Sincerity: honest and specific evaluation
  • Performance Attributions: focusing on controllable processes vs. student ability/overly simple tasks
  • Perceived Autonomy: focusing on students’ autonomy vs. our control (finding, in fact, that no praise has a better effect than controlling praise)
  • Competence and Self-Efficacy: focusing on information on performance vs. social comparison
  • Standards & Expectations: focusing on specific praise on appropriately-challenging tasks vs. praise for too-easy or too-difficult tasks

8 Tips

Be mindful of the growth-mindset

Never praise students for what they are right now. Elevate your sights to the vision of where their efforts can take them; if your praise focuses merely on their current abilities, they will be less likely to view that potential for growth in themselves.

“I could tell you worked so hard to figure out that math problem. Way to stick with it even when it was tricky!” instead of “You’re so good at math!”

Be descriptive

Vague statements like “good job” can undermine student motivation because it does not offer concrete support for a student’s effort, nor does it recognize their personal reasons for pursuing the task. On the other hand, a detailed description becomes more useful feedback.

“Nice–when you made eye contact and responded constructively to your group members during that activity, it showed them respect and helped your whole group have a good discussion.” instead of “Good group discussion!”

Make the positive reinforcement more of an observation than explicit praise.

Set the tone of optimism by noticing the good more often than the bad. This helps create a positive atmosphere not only because students know you’re not going to harp on every error, but also because they’ll tend to pay more attention to the good things happening around them, too.

“I notice that Carlos is stacking everyone else’s chairs for them.” 

Connect the praise to genuine principles of respectful relationships.

Really, everything else hinges on this one. As Henderlong and Lepper concluded, “…provided that it is perceived as sincere, praise is likely to enhance intrinsic motivation when attributional messages prevent maladaptive inferences, when autonomy is promoted, when perceived competence and self-efficacy are heightened without undue use of social comparison, and when realistic standards and expectations are conveyed” (The Effects of Praise, p. 791). Nothing else will quite matter if your students sense ulterior motives.

“Wow, when Becca turned her chair around when I was sharing instructions, I could tell she was offering not just her attention, but her respect for my time, because her body language showed it. I really appreciate that.”

Genuinely thank students for their efforts to create a supportive classroom environment

They should know that you understand that it’s not easy to bring 25+ people together in a cooperative, positive, and safe learning environment every day. Give them the tools to help by verbalizing the kinds of choices that support learning.  Express your appreciation for those efforts frequently, reminding them that we’re all in this together!

“When Johnny was sharing his story, I saw Ashley put down her papers and look up at him. It’s not easy for anyone to get up and share, so thank you for helping Johnny feel more comfortable with sharing with such an attentive and respectful audience!” 

Don’t just use positive reinforcement as a misbehavior redirect

Notice and point out times when the entire class is pitching in to help the classroom run smoothly, and explain the difference you can feel–and ask them if they can feel it, too!

“During that transition, everyone put away the math cubes and moved back to their desks for wrap up immediately! I love that we have plenty of time to discuss our math noticings now–thank you for helping our class run smoothly!” 

Notice everyone

Seriously. Use a class list on a clipboard and tally off names if you need to. Otherwise, you and your students both know you’re going to wind up primarily noticing the same 5 line-of-sight people every day.

Get rid of tangible extrinsic rewards that often accompany praise

These devalue the positive attention given because students are less likely to internalize the value of the behavior or task for its own sake.  Keep close tabs on your extrinsic rewards in general, and always be willing to ask yourself the tough questions.

Featured Image: fs999

What Happened When I Stopped Teaching History in Chronological Order

“Wait–what?!” That was pretty much the universal response from when I first suggested the idea. But after teaching U.S. history in relentlessly chronological order for a couple of years, I couldn’t help but wonder if there was a better way. Wouldn’t teaching all the wars in one unit help them better comprehend the nature and cause/effect of war?  Could teaching about the evolution of governing documents–from the Magna Carta to the 27th U.S. Constitutional Amendment–help students better understand the processes of government? And is chronological order really necessary for students to get a clear picture our country’s past–and more importantly, is it the best way to help them apply it to their present and future?

Back to the Drawing Board

So in my third year of teaching fifth grade, our grade level team decided to take a leap and rework our social studies approach. The priority shifted from individual facts and dates to overarching concepts.

As an IB school, 6 units of inquiry were already in place; we revisited the central idea for each one and considered historical concepts that would relate to each other. Below were the results:

  • Unit: Who We are
    • Central Idea: Understanding the similarities & differences of the human experience helps us explain shared humanity.
    • History concepts included: Rights movements (slavery, civil rights, women’s suffrage, child labor, etc.)
  • Unit: Where we are in place & time
    • Central Idea: The evolution of civilizations stems from human relationships & personal journeys.
    • History concepts included: Westward expansion, Industrial Revolution, Great Depression migration
  • Unit: How the world works
    • Central Idea: Scientific discoveries increase humans’ ability to expand.
    • History concepts included: Pivotal inventions that led to the exploration, formation, and expansion of the U.S.
  • Unit: How we organize ourselves
    • Central Idea: Order drives the systems of our world.
    • History concepts included: Study of governing documents, 3 branches of U.S. government
  • Unit: Sharing the planet
    • Central Idea: The world evolves due to the cause and effect of changes.
    • History concepts included: Study of U.S. wars
  • Unit: How we express ourselves (this is the fifth graders’ self-directed exhibition unit at our school)

Unknown Waters

Throughout the implementation process, I remember actively discussing the new approach with my students–I wanted them to know that I did not know how it would work, and that we were seeking answers together. And answers they found! A couple months in, one suggested that we post a timeline in the corner of our classroom, adding dates and pictures of important events as we explored them to help us all put things in context.  Others exclaimed when they realized that we used to teach each war often months apart, instead of studying them side-by-side.

By the end of the year, my students possessed unprecedented historical comprehension. They didn’t just know the names and dates of important wars; they understood the cause-and-effect within and between each one.  They didn’t just memorize the names of the three branches of government; they understood that governing documents and systems are a work in progress in which we all must participate. They didn’t just watch a couple videos about human rights movements; they made in-depth connections about the human experience and our treatment of one another. For our class, the question of teaching history by concept became a resounding YES.

Final Take-Away

It’s important to note that my most valuable learning from this experience did not come from watching my students flourish in concept-driven history (though that was indeed rewarding!). Rather, it was the realization that we must never stop questioning our practices.  Look among the dustiest and most longstanding ones and simply ask yourself why–and remember to take your students on the journey with you!

If you’re interested in other ways to challenge the status quo, check out our post, “What Happened When We Ditched Our Boxed Spiral Review Program (Mountain Math/Language.”

Featured ImageJános Balázs

10 Back-to-School Icebreaker Games

Icebreakers aren’t just fun–they can play an essential role in helping your students become comfortable with each other at the beginning of and throughout the school year. They also have serious potential for team-building, bonding, and concentration!  This is a tried-and-true list of beloved games, especially suitable for upper elementary and older grades.

7/28/15: As you make plans on how to use this list, check out my follow-up post: Icebreakers: A Learning Moment & Follow-Up


Game of Whiz:

Description: This icebreaker is sure to help everyone get comfortable with each other and have fun as they play with sound effects.

Instructions:
  • Everyone stands in a circle facing each other.
  • Pick a person for the first turn.  He or she can pass the turn by doing one of the following actions/sounds:
  • Saying, “Whiz,” while turning with hands extended as if passing an object to the person on the right or left only.
  • Saying, “Sha-na-na-na-na-na-na,” while waving arms like tentacles across the circle to someone else (make eye contact so they know who you are passing the turn to!)  Note: The person across the circle has to receive the turn by saying “Sha-na-na-na-na-na-na” back at the passer before passing the turn to someone else!
  • Yelling, “Ahhhh!” while putting palms together and pointing at a new person. Note: The person across the circle has to receive the turn by yelling “Ahhh” back at the passer while putting their palms together above their head before passing the turn to someone else.
  • If someone tries to pass “Whiz” to you, you can also deflect it by putting your palms out and saying, “Boink!” Then that person has to pass the turn the other direction (“Boink” only allowed with “Whiz.”)
Winning:
  • After a couple of practice rounds, you can try elimination, where people get out if they forget to receive the “Sha-na-na’s” or yells properly, or otherwise mess up.
  • The last two people standing win!

Hoi Game:

Description: Another great icebreaker that allows everyone to just be silly and have fun together as they train with their “samurai sword” hands, drilling, “Hoi!” at each other.

Instructions:
  • Everyone stands in a circle facing each other.
  • Everyone puts their hands together as if in samurai training and bows to each other chanting, “Hoi, hoi, hoi, hoi, hoi.”
  • Then the first person puts their palms together with arms extended, and while pointing them at someone says, “Hoi!”
  • The person who was pointed at has to respond by putting his/her hands above his/her head with palms together while saying, “Hoi!”
  • The two people standing on either side of the person pointed at also put their palms together and slash at that person’s torso (without actual contact), saying, “Hoi!”
  • After their neighbors slash and say hoi, the person with their hands above the head then drops them in front, pointing at a new person, and saying, “Hoi!”
Winning:
  • After a couple of practice rounds, you can try elimination, where people are out if they say “hoi” out of turn, lose the beat, or motion their hands in the wrong way.
  • When you get to the last two people, the leader can have them stand back to back, walk 5 paces, and then turn and “hoi” at each other–the first to say it & point wins!

Assassin

Description: This game takes serious observations skills as everyone pretends to be diplomats at an international conference, mingling among an assassin!

Instructions:
  • Everyone stands in a circle facing out (no peeking!)
  • The leader is in the center and walks among them, talking about random topics to serve as a distraction as to who they choose as the assassin. The leader taps one person on the shoulder twice, designating him or her as the assassin, and continues to walk and talk a bit to keep anyone from knowing the assassin’s identity.
  • The leader tells everyone to turn and then mingle as if they’re at an international conference.  They should shake hands while saying hello in another language (Variations: leader can tell everyone to greet each other as an animal, or in an accent, etc.).
  • The assassin mingles, too, and intermittently kills people as they shake hands by squeezing someone’s hand twice.
  • Once their hand has been squeezed twice, a person should fall to the ground and faint or die as dramatically as possible.
Winning:
  • As people begin to notice a pattern, someone can raise their hand and shout, “I have an accusation to make!” Someone else has to say, “I second the accusation” for the person to make the accusation–if no one seconds it, they die.  If someone seconds it, the leader counts to three, and then the two people have to point at the accused assassin.  They must point at the same person! If they disagree, they both die.
  • If they both point at the same person, and that person is the assassin, they win. If they both point at the same person, and it’s not the assassin, they both die.

Carriwitchet

Description: This is a variation of the popular game, “Fruit basket.” Only instead of calling out fruits, the person in the middle calls out get-to-know-you descriptions!

Instructions:
  • Everyone stands in a circle facing in on a place marker (or sitting on their chairs).
  • The person who starts out as “it” stands in the middle without a place marker, and calls out “Carriwitchet if you have        [person shares something about themselves or something they’ve done]!”
  • Everyone who has also done that thing or who shares the description has to find a new place marker. When switching, you must find a place at least 2 place markers away.
  • The person in the middle runs to a place marker, and the last person without a place marker is the new “it” in the middle.

Concentration

Description: This is a great clap/chant game to help get everyone in rhythm and unified! It’s also fun to see how many words for each topic the group can come up with.  It is a trickier game to get used to, though, so make sure you have plenty of time for everyone to practice the beat!

Instructions:
  • Everyone sits in a circle facing in.
  • The leader starts everyone off in the clap/snap/chant pattern as follows:
Opening Verse spoken by all: Subject-choosing verse spoken by leader while everyone continues the hand rhythm
  • “CON- (pat legs)
  • -CEN- (clap hands)
  • -TRA- (snap with one hand)
  • -TION, (snap with the other hand)
  • Concen- (pat)
  • -tration (clap)
  • Is the (snap)
  • game. (snap)
  • Keep (pat)
  • the (clap)
  • rhy- (snap)
  • -thm, (snap)
  • keep the (pat)
  • rhythm (clap)
  • to the (snap)
  • end.” (snap)
  • (pat legs)
  • (clap hands)
  • “Subject (snap with one hand)
  • is (snap with the other hand)
  • (pat)
  • (clap)
  • [states subject] (snap)
  • (snap)
  • (pat)
  • (clap)
  • Starting (snap)
  • with  (snap)
  • (pat)
  • (clap)
  • [states example] (snap)
  • (snap)
  • Ideas for subjects:
  • fruits, desserts, cereals, sports, school, summer, animals
  • When you state your example, it must be on the snaps! If it’s more than one syllable, you can say it over both snaps, but it cannot be spoken with the pat/clap.
  • Everyone goes counterclockwise around the circle from the leader stating an example of the subject when it is their turn.
  • NO repeated examples!
Winning:
  • After a few practice rounds, you can try elimination. If a person can’t think of something on their turn, says their example off-rhythm, or repeats an example someone else already said, they are out!

Big Booty

Description: This is a classic concentration rhythm game, where everyone tries to get the Big Booty out!

Instructions:
  • Everyone sits in a circle facing in.
  • The leader is “Big Booty,” and then everyone else numbers off counterclockwise, starting at 1.
  • Everyone puts their hands in the air and says, the following:
    • “Ahhh, Big–”
    • BOO-ty, (pat). They start a simple pat/clap pattern.
    • Big BOOty, (clap on “boo”)
    • Big BOOty. (pat on “boo”)
    • (clap)
    • Big Booty, (pat)
    • Number __ (clap)
    • (pat)
    • (clap)
  • Big Booty starts off by passing his/her turn by saying their own title, and then someone else’s number.
  • One pat/clap beat in between turns.
  • The person whose number is spoken then receives the turn by saying their number and then passes it by saying someone else’s number, or “Big Booty.”
Winning:
  • After a few practice rounds, you can try elimination.  If someone doesn’t receive their turn by saying their own number first, missing the beat, or responding when it’s not their turn, they are out.
  • When someone gets out, they go the end of the numbers (to the right of Big Booty), and everyone numbers off, starting at 1, to the left of Big Booty.
  • The goal is to get Big Booty out  and to become Big Booty yourself!

Captain’s Coming (source)

Description: This is a silly version of Simon Says that gets everyone scrambling to follow the captain’s orders!

Instructions:
  • The leader is the captain, and is in charge of calling out actions and refereeing
  • Actions to be called out:
    • “Captain’s Coming!” (1-person command): Everyone stands at attention with their hand in salute, and they can’t move until the captain says, “At Ease!”  If the captain calls other actions before saying, “at ease,” and people move to do them, they are out!
    • “Man Overboard!” (2-person command): One person drops to one knee the other stands behind them, puts a hand on their shoulder. Both put their hands above their eyes to look for the man overboard.
    • “Crow’s Nest!” (3-person command): Three players stand with their backs toward each other and link elbows, forming a crow’s nest.
    • “Mess Table!” (4-person command): Four players huddle around a make-believe table and pretend to eat savagely, making sounds like, “NOM-NOM-NOM-NOM!!”
    • “Walk the Plank!” (5-person command): Five people stand in a single file row hands on the shoulders of person in front of them.  The captain comes and counts out five, starting with the person at the front, but people can keep trying to shuffle into the front of a line of 5 to get included in the plank until the captain starts counting.
    • “Mermaid!” (optional 1-person command to get everyone cracking up): Players each thrust out the right hips, puts the right hand on that hip, and makes an exaggerated tail wave with the left hand, yelling, “Howdy, sailor!”
  • The captain should revisit “captain’s coming” from time to time to see if everyone is paying attention with “at ease.”
Winning:
  • Everyone has to get in groups, doing the correct actions within a few seconds, or the captain declares them out!
Crabwalk Shoe-Tag

Description: This is a great rainy-day indoor game that gets everyone moving and having fun.

Instructions:
  • The leader sets up a rectangular perimeter with markers.
  • Everyone loosens their shoelaces or shoe straps and then gets into a crabwalk position on all fours.
  • When the leader says, “Go,” everyone crabwalks around trying to knock off each other’s shoes.
Winning:
  • Last one wearing a shoe wins. 🙂

Two Truths & a Lie

Description: This game is a great way to learn about each other–not only the things that people have done, but how good they are at being sneaky. 🙂

Instructions:
  • Everyone thinks of two true things they have done and one thing they have NOT done. (for younger students, you might even have them write down their ideas.  You may also want to teach them about what makes it fun; saying, “I have 1 brother, I have 2 brothers, I have 2 uncles,” isn’t a particularly interesting one for anyone to guess, which is partly why we emphasize telling them to share things they’ve done).
  • Other players take a few turns guessing which is the lie, before the person reveals it!
Winning:
  • The person who correctly guesses the lie gets the next turn!

Never Have I Ever

Description: This is another classic get-to-know-you game that my students always enjoyed playing in the hallways while waiting for the next activity!

Instructions:
  • Everyone puts 5 fingers in the air.
  • The  person whose turn it is says, “Never have I ever ___(something they have honestly never done that they think other people have done)___.”
  • Anyone who HAS done it must put down one finger.
Winning:
  • The person who still has at least one finger up wins!

Photo Source

Antoinette van de Rieth (featured image)

How Kindergarten Prep Frenzy Changed My Teaching Perspective

I didn’t think the teacher/parent table would turn on me that fast. After all, not only I had just paused my teaching career in June–I was only back for a few weeks in September to mentor a student teacher–my own kids weren’t even in school yet.

As I sat in the teacher’s lounge listening to all the usual back-to-school lunchtime chatter, I overheard some kindergarten teachers anticipating their new batch of 5 year-olds. One exclaimed how many students failed to identify lower-cased letters of the alphabet in the initial assessments.

I froze. Normally, I’d commiserate a bit, perhaps reciprocating with how many students I had on behavior contracts. But it hit me: MY 4-year old didn’t know her lower-cased letters.  And she showed no signs of wanting to, either, despite the fact that she’d be starting kindergarten the following fall.

It was my first realization that in the school system, I was officially on the parent side of the table.

Preschool Pressure

I finished mentoring and went back to my extended parental leave at home. Over the course of a month or so, the stress in preschool-ing my stubborn four-year old grew.  Frustrations mounted each time she refused to sing her ABC’s or explore some carefully-crafted science station. Those fears finally came to light one evening when I realized that I had been subconsciously–yet intensely–internalizing the conversation from the teacher’s lounge all that time.  I remember actually saying out loud,

“What if she becomes the subject of her kindergarten teacher’s complaining in the faculty lounge next year?”

Once spoken aloud, I realized how silly the words sounded. However, as I began to conduct research to make preschool a more positive process, I also realized that I was far from alone when it comes to fearful parents.

“Preparation” on Steroids?

Wanting to give their children the best advantages, some parents have taken to “redshirting” their kindergarteners.  That is, they delay school a year in the hopes that their children will gain a “competitive learning edge.”

Other parents obsess over the school their child attends.  One article describes how parents went so far as to move to new neighborhoods, create spreadsheets, and attend Kindergarten 101–a prep class for parents.  But these preparations aren’t discussed as excessive, but as possibly helpful, citing a Harvard study that found that academic performance in kindergarten correlates to future earnings.

Top all that with an abundance of academics-heavy kindergarten readiness checklists, it’s no wonder that parents are inclined to worry.

Kindergarten Readiness Tips & Checklists

Kindergarten prep is indeed all the rage these days, especially for those who believe the Common Core standards mandate five year olds to read. But parents and teachers alike would do well to step away from the frenzy and examine what is truly developmentally appropriate for their children.  Below are tips for both to help them regain calm and clarity in learning with their preschoolers and kindergartners.

Parent Tips
  • Correlation does not equal causation. Remember that there are always a lot of possible causes for any given outcome.  Studies that find correlations for later successes are likely just picking up on the simple benefits of involved, loving parents.
  • Consider the effects of rushing your child.  The author of The Hurried Child, Dr. David Elkind, shares research that “students are more likely to have academic success if they are not hurried through their early childhood by parents who overestimate their competence and overexpose them to academic pressures.”
  • Travis Swan
    Travis Swan

    Step away from the workbooks. That’s not to say that if your child demonstrates genuine interest in more academic concepts, you should deny them.  But it’s essential to understand that play is absolutely critical for developing the most basic skills for kindergarten readiness and beyond–including problem solving, passion, experimentation, and more.  As Richard Lewis, founder and director of The Touchstone Center in New York City, explains:

“Play is the great discoverer, and its discoveries are the frontiers and landscapes of our imagining mind.” [“I Made It By Myself,” by Richard Lewis]

Teacher Tips
  • See each new student. Don’t allow your initial benchmarks or any other number to define your opinions of any child. Instead, make it your priority to discover their interests, strengths, quirks, etc.
  • Step away from the workbooks. (see parent tip above).
  • Evaluate what the Common Core State Standards are really outlining. If you are among those stressing about the perceived advanced standards for early elementary, remember that the political agendas and loud voices of a few have skewed interpretations of the standards for some. In our most recent post on the Common Core, we shared J. Richard Gentry’s example of what easily misinterpreted standards really look like:

For example, one contested language arts standard reads, “Read emergent-reader texts with purpose and understanding.”  Gentry explains that this refers to memory reading in which, “The emergent-reader text is first modeled by the teacher for the students, then joyfully read over and over with the students until eventually the easy book is independently read by the students with great joy and confidence.” (We highly recommend his article, “An Ode to Common Core Kindergarten Standards.”)

Kindergarten Readiness

One of the best kindergarten readiness lists I’ve ever encountered was on a university’s laboratory preschool blog, prefaced by the following:

“Don’t be overly concerned with academics right now…You read to your children, you go on family outings, you model a love for learning, but most of all you are very involved in the lives of your children. This will make kindergarten a wonderful time for your child, and start him/her on the road to a good education.”

Here is their list, which I heartily second as a teacher and parent:

  1. Feel capable and confident, and tackle new demands with an “I can do it” attitude.
  2. Have an open, curious attitude toward new experiences.
  3. Enjoy being with other children.
  4. Can establish a trusting relationship with adults other than parents.
  5. Can engage in physical activity such as walk, run, climb (children with handicaps can have a fine time in kindergarten if school and parents work cooperatively on necessary special arrangements).
  6. Take care of their own basic needs, such as dressing, eating, and toileting.
  7. Have had experience with small toys, such as puzzles and crayons.
  8. Express themselves clearly in conversation.
  9. Understand that symbols (such as a stop sign) are used to provide useful information.
  10. Love books, stories and songs and can sit still to listen.

Whether a parent or a teacher, remember to ask yourself the following question:

With what kind of tone do I want to introduce formal education to my kindergartner? 

Photo Credit:

 

How to Set up Democratic Classroom Jobs

When you set up your classroom, is democracy a mindful priority?

Background

I’ve never forgotten the story of how one of my favorite college professors was begged out of retirement to teach 2nd grade–the evening before school started. When she walked into her classroom on the first day of school, it was to bare walls, stacked desks, and puzzled students.

They sat down on the floor together. Eventually, a 7 year-old timidly shared that things felt a little off, to which the others agreed.  When my professor asked them what a classroom should consist of, one girl raised her hand and said, “Well, last year, we had chairs.” They set to work arranging the furniture, and then regrouped. Then, another boy offered, “We also normally have pencils.” Together, they procured a supply.  And so it went for the first part of the school year.

I’ve always remembered the ending to her story: that those students owned that classroom as none of her students had before or since. And with a wink, she added that she didn’t necessarily recommend having zero preparation before the school year started–at least for the sake of school administrators’ sanity.

The Set Up

The idea of incorporating classroom jobs centers around ownership. This is more than about classroom management or clean-up–it’s about empowering students with the understanding that the feel of their learning environment is in their hands.

Hold a class meeting early in the school year to discuss the shared nature of your classroom’s physical, emotional, and academic space.  Brainstorm tasks you all feel are necessary for smooth maintenance, safety, and support.  You may opt to show students your list from the previous year, and then allow them to help you modify it based on their unique needs.  Or you may choose to go the way of my professor, and allow your students to start from scratch!

Pass out a job application so students can list their top choices and reasons they believe they would qualify for the job.

Additional options to consider:
  • Interview each student before assigning jobs.  I’ve had groups that enjoyed dressing up for a more formal and “official” experience.
  • Set aside “job time” at the end or beginning of the day for those students whose jobs require some time; you may choose to have the other students read, journal, etc., during that time.

List of Job Ideas

Whatever your approach, below are jobs that have all been tried by my fifth graders (with the exception of a “social media manager,” which I plan on trying out as soon as I resume teaching)!  The number to the side is how many students I’ve typically had doing the job, but be sure to base things on your class needs and size!  Also note that some are combos based on how much time some jobs took. Feel free to share these with your students to help them get inspired!

Paper Passers/Absentee Buddies:
  • Description: Passes out any appropriate papers daily and picks up papers from groups. During job time, they get materials gathered for any students that are absent, write down assignments for the day, and leaves them neatly on their desks.  (2)
  • Qualities:  FAST, excellent attendance, organized, hand-writing
Folder Filer
  • Description: Files all graded papers and handouts into each student’s file of papers that are to go home. (2)
  • Qualities: Memory skills, FAST
Lunch/Classroom Maintenance
  • Description: Carries lunch basket daily. Also gets the room ready for projector use when needed by quickly pulling down the projector screen, turning off the lights, closing the blinds, and turning on the projector. During job time, they check all the walls for repairs & remind tables to clean up desks/floors. Takes care of all other classroom maintenance as called upon.  (2)
  • Qualities:  Strong, lines up quickly at beginning of line, tall, takes initiative
Homework Checker
  • Description: Checks all planners at the end of the day during job time.  They also check for completion of the homework journal/project each Friday morning, and reports and missing work to the teacher in the morning.
  • Qualities: Responsible, thorough, organized. (1)
Birthday Coordinator
  • Description: Makes birthday cards for each student on their birthday/half birthday, and then get signatures from everyone in the class.
  • Qualities:  Good handwriting, artistic, thoughtful, AMAZING memory! (1)
Question of the Week Keeper
  • Description: Comes up with brainteaser questions and answers for the Question of the Week and lets the payroll know who gets bonuses for getting it right. (1)
  • Qualities:  Good handwriting, likes puzzles, organized. (1)
Event Manager
  • Description: Updates the daily schedule and keeps the monthly calendar correct.
  • Qualities:  Tall, memory skills, VERY neat handwriting (1)
Assistant Event Manager
  • Description: Assists the event manager with anything he/she needs help with.
  • Qualities: Neat handwriting, tall, organized, memory skills
Board Eraser
  • Description: This person will need to erase the board after each recess and whenever else it is needed. Thoroughly cleans the board during job time. (1)
  • Qualities:  Tall, strong, pays attention, neat
Payroll
  • Description:  Reminds all students to add their paychecks to their check registers every payday.  They also check with students who have bonuses each day during job time to make sure they’ve recorded in their check registers.  (1)
  • Qualities:  listener, math money skills, honest
Debt Collector
  • Description: During job time each day, they check with any students who have fines to make sure they’ve recorded them in their check registers. (1)
  • Qualities:  organized, listener, math money skills
Cashier/Pledge Leader
  • Description: Handles money during the class store by helping students write checks and subtract from their check registers. Assigns prices to class store items. Also stands and leads the pledge every morning. (1)
  • Qualities: honest, math money skills, organized, memory skills
Behavior Recorder/Assistant Room Manager
  • Description: Writes down daily fines and bonuses and then records them on the board during job time. Also assists the room manager with filling in for absent students. (1)
  • Qualities: responsible, great memory, honest
Room Manager
  • Description: Makes sure that everyone is doing their job daily. Also fills in for any job if a student is absent. (Must know responsibilities of all jobs) Takes care of all other leadership/management tasks as called upon. (1)
  • Qualities:  Organized, attentive, fast Learner, leadership
Line Leader
  • Description: Leads the line daily. Learns assigned places to stop & keeps the class straight and quiet by giving firm reminders to students that need to stop talking or walk single file. (1)
  • Qualities:  listener, respectful
Line Ender
  • Description: Ends the line daily to all destinations and turns off the light as class leaves. If any student has to return to the classroom to retrieve a forgotten item, the line ender is required to go with them. Keeps the class straight and quiet by giving firm reminders to students that need to stop talking or walk single file.
  • Qualities:  Fast, good listener great memory, respectful
Class Journal Keeper
  • Description: Updates the class journal each day during job time with a description/illustration of the day’s events. (1)
  • Qualities: Artistic, neat handwriting
Class Photographer
  • Description: This person must have access to a digital camera that he/she can bring to school on a regular basis.  They are in charge to taking pictures of exciting experiments, debates, parties, and anything else; they then need to email pictures from home to me occasionally.  (1)
  • Qualities:  Takes initiative, very responsible, photography/technology skills
Messenger
  • Description: Runs any notes or errands throughout building throughout the day.  Collects Mrs. Wade’s mailbox items from the front office every job time.  (1)
  • Qualities:  Knows school and different teachers, communicator, fast walker, polite, honest
Lunch Counter
  • Description: Also, each morning makes sure all students have moved lunch magnets and then counts/writes down how many for each option. Moves the magnets back at the end of the day.  (1)
  • Qualities: organized, memory skills, fast
Sanitation Specialist
  • Description: Using disinfectant wipes, cleans all desks, tables, (and if time), chairs at the end of each day during job time. Cleans other surfaces as needed. (2)
  • Qualities: Attention to detail, helpful, respectful to others’ belongings
Organization Expert
  • Description: Helps keep the entire class organized; organizes the guided reading desk/teacher area as needed, helps other students with organizing their desks, organizes other things around the class when it gets cluttered. (1)
  • Qualities: Um, organized.  🙂 Also, takes initiative, meaning they don’t need to be asked to notice & jump in to help.
Class Medic/End of Day Caller
  • Description: Keeps band-aids in their desk and distributes to students. Also makes sure everyone takes home their lunch boxes/coats/backpacks.(1)
  • Qualities:  Fast, memory skills, reliable
Clubhouse keeper
  • Description: Straightens up the clubhouse and sorts the books during job time every day. Checks for any damages to books and fixes them or reports them to the teacher as needed. Maintains all other clubhouse materials to keep things looking nice. (1)
  • Qualities:  Organized, respectful to books
Scribe/Word Wall Attendant
  • Description:  On Monday Meetings, this person will write down all the items of business discussed and report at the end. This person also maintains the word wall chart during job time by neatly writing great words we encounter as a class. This person will also take notes whenever we go over important things, remind the teacher of things, and advance PowerPoint presentations during lessons. (1)
  • Qualities:  handwriting, organized, memory skills, strong computer skills
Supplies Station Manager
  • Description:  Sharpens pencils at the end of the day and keeps track of/replenishes all supplies that are running low.  Also cleans up/disinfects the entire supplies station area daily. (1)
  • Qualities:  Great memory, dedicated, attentive to detail, organization skills
Social Media Manager

For a printable version of my list, click here! And if you have additional jobs that your students have loved, please share in the comments!
Photo Credit (featured image): maaco